Being the one ultimately responsible for the spirit and mission of the Oblates and for the welfare of each one, Eugene, as Superior General,  had vetted two of the young men who wanted to enter the novitiate and become Oblates. He wrote to the novice master, Casimir Aubert, to give his impressions and warnings.

… I happened to be at Calvaire when the two Italians arrived there. After a long conversation with them, I came to the conclusion that the one lacked the capacity while the other was lacking in virtue. Father Albini, in whose hands I left them, is sending them on to you for you to make a definitive judgment. I don’t want you to have the wool pulled over your eyes, which is why I am writing again this evening. In the first place I see no possibility of admitting the one who is sub-standard in intelligence. He did very badly in school, he was sent away from the Jesuit college for the precise reason that he did not succeed in his studies. It is some teacher in the town who pushed him through his studies in double quick time. What is more he expresses himself with great difficulty. I don’t think he is cut out for us.
The other one has a bad appearance, a crooked smile, a fastidiousness about his grooming that makes one suppose he thinks he is an attractive young man. I don’t think he has the least idea about the religious virtues and it could well be has come for some ulterior motive…
In short, it seems to me it would take a miracle for him to acquire the religious virtues and it would worry me a lot to introduce to the novitiate a young man infected with vice, especially when he shows not the least sign of religious fervour, in case it should prove harmful to men who have a real need of good example.

After all these warnings, Eugene advised:

Even so, I am not making a definite pronouncement for his exclusion. If you think you have the courage to set about his conversion, trusting in a miracle, you are free to try, but be on your guard, don’t deceive yourself, and above all exclude any idea of admitting him [ed to become a novice] before he has had an intensive trial for one month.

Letter to Casimir Aubert, 2-3 October 1834, EO VIII n. 487

Nothing upsets me more than having to send anyone away after the ceremonies of entry into the novitiate. Why not give ourselves enough time to form a reasonable judgment on them? In this case it is clear that the young man in question cannot be admitted.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 30 November 1834, EO VIII n 496

Thus Fr Aubert did not have to trust in miracles!

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have to admit that I like the ‘come-and-see’ approach. I look at the young men wishing to join Eugene’s community, how he describes them and I am reminded for a moment of the young Eugene who commissioned a portrait of himself and who disliked the results because he saw flaws that made him appear less than perfect. I think of the ‘miracle’ that later took place within Eugene’s heart.

    Who among us whether at work or in ministry has recognized that there are some who wish to join us but who do not at first appear to be suitable? I look at how the members of the Mazenodian Family, particularly the Oblates, look to try and discern with us whether it is a call from God (vs a call from ourselves in our need to belong, to be a part of something, etc.) and how this is passed-on and shared with us – not just for those wishing to become professed Oblates but for all members of the Mazenodian Family. Are we a good fit – not just for ourselves but for the community and how we will share our gifts?

    “A suitable time of discernment, formation and preparation is essential for all before a commitment is made.” Franks words of yesterday come to mind; discernment on all sides (not just the one who wants to join), then formation and preparation.

    For a moment my mind rails at Eugene’s use of the word ‘judgment’, but then I think for a second of how God himself has judged me – lovingly judged me. Not to exclude me from all life but to help me to find out where I truly belong, for it is more than just a matter of ‘doing some good works and being part of a really ‘cool’ group.

    It is never just about me. I think of the words from Constitution 32: “Our life in all its dimensions is a prayer that, in us and through us, God’s kingdom come.” ‘Our’ and ‘us’ are the words used – it is never just about ‘me’. What do I call forth from the community? That is every bit as important as what the community will call forth from within me.

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